Binalonan, Literature And Education

Original Story from: The Philippine Star - Hindsight by F. Sionil Jose, March 5, 2012                                                   

“Binalonan, a progressive town in Pangasinan, is the birthplace of writer Carlos Bulosan”

BinalonanLitEd3I went to Binalonan, that very progressive town in Pangasinan, birthplace of the famous expatriate writer Carlos Bulosan, whose America is in the Heart is a must-read for all those interested in the diaspora and in the early experiences of Filipino workers in America. Binalonan’s energetic and innovative mayor, Ramon Guico III, invited me. He is one of those youthful leaders — well prepared to shoulder the tremendous challenge of bringing modernity and development to our rural people.

He is a scholar, an airplane and helicopter pilot, an educator and a hands-on executive firmly rooted on native ground. To celebrate, Binalonan’s town fiesta and make it more meaningful, he had assembled the teachers in the congressional district and invited the district’s congresswoman, Ms. Kimi Cojuangco. It is unusual for politicians, and particularly provincial politicos, to be involved with writers and, frankly, I was impressed that I was asked to talk before a crowd of hundreds, maybe thousands, rather than just a group of 50 as I had expected. Mayor Guico is backstopped by his family, his mother, Arlyn Grace Guico most of all, who also believes in the value of education as the most important factor in development. Before an audience dressed for the occasion, Congresswoman Kimi apologized for being in blue jeans, but regaled her listeners when she promised them assistance from her father-in-law, the tycoon Danding Cojuangco.

Ramon Guico III exemplifies the new leadership which may yet lift this nation from the rubble of elite dysfunction and irresponsibility. He wants to develop agriculture, to raise high-value crops, and give the farmers a new mindset through education and example.

BinalonanLitEd2Every year, Binalonan celebrates the birthday of its literary icon, Carlos Bulosan. I told Mayor Guico every time I go to the Ilokos, I take my visitors through that roadside where a marker identifies his birthplace. He said that marker will be replaced with a more fitting structure and I told him to invite the writers in Manila to visit Binalonan when that monument or whatever structure rises will be inaugurated. That evening, in the town auditorium, I told those teachers why literature is important. It teaches us ethics, it restores and fortifies our memory which then binds us together as a people, as a nation.

Mayor Guico understands these: he wants me to go back and lecture at the university in Binalonan. I surely will.